By Patrick Nicholson
Tented camps dot the countryside around Nowshera. Their inhabitants are some of the 21 million people affected by the floods this August in Pakistan that have ravaged a vast swathe of the country.
Some people have stayed behind in their old villages, where even the stone houses are badly damaged and the mud homes simply washed away.
When the flood waters entered Kabal village, everyone ran. Elders had told them not to worry about the floods. The village had not been flooded for a hundred years. Five feet of water came into their homes in an instant. With no warning, people only had enough time to save their skins.
I asked what residents what they’d saved. What one object had they reached for while fleeing out the door. None was the answer I’d usually get.
One man told me he wanted to save his education certificates so he could get work. Another, some books. Another jewelry. But all was lost in the floods.
Bahat Sardera, 16 saved her small sister when the floods came. The waters came at night. Luckily her family had been sleeping outside. The waters swept away the house and they ran to higher ground. A couple of young children in the area were not so lucky. They were drowned.
Along with all the personal items went food stocks, furniture, beds, clothes, cooking equipment and so on. Caritas is working across Pakistan to replace these items and provide food, shelter, healthcare and livelihoods for the 350,000 people affected by the floods.
Bahat Sardera’s family were poor before the floods. Their father had abandoned them. They survived on what the mother could receive in charity. There was not enough money to send Bahat to school, although she has studied the Koran.
Now they are even poorer. They have lost everything. Caritas is working in their village to provide tents and food. Healthcare is key, with poor sanitation and many cases of diarrhea and skin diseases. Without Caritas, they’d have no help at all.
40 days after the floods came here, the waters have now gone. What they have left behind are destroyed lives, homes, and families. Caritas will be there for the long-term, helping the communities get back on their feet.